Mansour Abbas refuses to rule out government with Netanyahu

Heavy pressure on coalition MKs Zoabi, Ghanaim to resign • Both refuse to back down, say they have no intention to quit Knesset

 Mansour Abbas attends the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem, on February 22, 2022 (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Mansour Abbas attends the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem, on February 22, 2022
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Ra'am joining an alternative government led by opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu cannot be ruled out, MK Mansour Abbas said at a Shabatarbut event in the Arab city of Baka al-Gharbiya.

Abbas reportedly stated that, if Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's government falls, he will not rule out any political possibility, including with Religious Zionist head MK Bezalel Smotrich and MK Itamar Ben-Gvir, according to Walla.

During the event, Abbas also praised the current government's efforts, saying that the notion that the experiment of an Arab party in the coalition failed is wrong.

"People see it as black or white...we continue to work well together as different factions, in that sense the experiment succeeded," Abbas said.

"We work well together as different factions, in that sense the experiment succeeded"

Ra'am head MK Mansour Abbas

Abbas added that in his view, no bill, bar the budget bill, can topple the government. "We can't pass every bill, Bibi's previous government also could not pass any bill it wanted."

 Opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset, May 18, 2022. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90) Opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset, May 18, 2022. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Likud MK: Abbas "shares Hamas' values"

Later on Saturday, Abbas played down talks of an alternative government being formed in the current Knesset in a 'Meet the Press' N12 interview.

In the interview, the Ra'am head said that "the people should be asked on they think should lead the country" if the Bennett-Lapid government is toppled.

MK Israel Katz, who was also interviewed on the broadcast, signaled that Likud has no intention of forming a partnership with Ra'am by attacking Abbas, claiming he is a "terror supporter" who "shares Hamas' values."

The two also argued on whether there were negotiations between Ra'am and the Likud prior to Operation Guardian of the Walls in May 2021 and the formation of the 36th government.

Heavy pressure on rebel coalition MKs

Abbas' comments come following Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar threat that the coalition's inability to pass the West Bank emergency directive bill last week. Sa'ar, who initiated the bill, said that not passing the bill would cause chaos before it was voted down in the Knesset plenum by opposition MKs and two coalition MKs, Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi (Meretz) and Ra'am's Mazen Ghanaim.

Rebels Zoabi, who previously quit and rejoined the coalition, and Ghanaim are both under heavy pressure to resign from the Knesset to make way for MKs that are more likely to vote with the government.

Zoabi pressured by Meretz, Arab officials to quit Knesset

On Saturday, some 20 Meretz activists called on their elected representative Zoabi to resign as an MK during a protest under Zoabi's Nof Hagalil home. The protesters said Zoabi's actions could give rise to a Netanyahu-led government which features in Ben-Gvir and Smotrich in prominent offices, calling for her to quit in order to "save the change government."

 Meretz voters protest under MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi's Nof Hagalil home (credit: MAARIV) Meretz voters protest under MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi's Nof Hagalil home (credit: MAARIV)

Heads of Arab localities across Israel also began a campaign to push Zoabi out of the Knesset, as per KAN News. The Arab officials, some of which were present during coalition negotiations between Zoabi and Lapid last month, asked for her resignation in several meetings.

According to the officials, all the projects agreed for their localities by Zoabi and Lapid were put on hold due to the uncertainty of Zoabi's position in the coalition.

Meretz head, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, also indirectly called for her resignation in a tweet last week, saying "those who cannot withstand the difficulties" should resign.

However, Zoabi said she has no intention of resigning from the Knesset in a Saturday evening interview with KAN News. The coalition has reached a point of "posing a threat to the Arab sector, especially on national matters."

"The Israeli government is posing a threat to the Arab sector, especially on national matters"

Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi

Zoabi also claimed that Meretz '"changed" due to their decision to vote for the West Bank bill, adding that she may have angered Jewish left-wing voters but that she retains the support of Arab Meretz voters.

Ghanaim intends to remain an MK

Ra'am MK Ghanaim, who is also pressured in recent days to quit the Knesset, will not quit the Knesset and intends to vote against the emergency directives again when they're brought up to a vote once more, Haaretz reported.

Ghanaim, who was reportedly offered support in his intention to run for mayor of Sakhnin in local elections next year, said that even if he decides to run, he will not quit the Knesset.

 MK Mazen Ghanaim and MK Nir Orbach exchange words during a vote in the Knesset plenum on June 6, 2022 (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) MK Mazen Ghanaim and MK Nir Orbach exchange words during a vote in the Knesset plenum on June 6, 2022 (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Yamina MK Nir Orbach, who launched a verbal attack on Ghanaim during the crucial Knesset vote, reportedly warned his faction head, Bennett, that he would bring the government down if the two Arab MKs did not resign.

Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.